Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Bill of Rights- The Fifth Amendment

I plead the fifth... do I really understand that?

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

This one is full of information, and most of it is not debated, but the phrase "I plea the fifth" isn't used properly most of the time. 

Let's take this section by section. 

1. You cannot be held without an indictment, unless there is an extenuating circumstance of war (exception here is for war crimes) or public danger (there's a serial killer on the loose, I think). I am not even clear on the two exceptions myself. I think that it must be the Summer of Sam or a War Crime to supersede the need for a formal indictment or charges. Not all charges require grand jury indictment, but you must formally be charged before being compelled to answer for crimes. We see this in crime shows frequently... they can only hold the perp for 24 hours for questioning before having to cut him loose or charge him. No, Law & Order is not the authority on constitutional law, but it is a reference point for this portion of the Fifth Amendment. 

2. Double Jeopardy- you cannot be charged twice for the same crime. This one I don't quite understand the inner workings. For example, OJ was found not guilty of killing Nicole. Why can he not just admit now that he did and avoid prosecution. Jeopardy is attached to capital crimes such as murder. The state cannot appeal, so he could admit to it without going to prison. So why not just admit it? Did he not do it? Most of the court of public opinion feels he did. I do think that I understand he could be charged with other crimes such as obstruction of justice, lying under oath, and other such crimes. I do not believe those have the same penalty, though. 

3. This is the part people use incorrectly. "or shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Witness against himself would indicate that he is guilty. If someone is called as a witness against someone else, it is to testify that someone or something did something wrong. It doesn't say that you can't be compelled to witness for yourself (which you aren't required to do either) but you cannot be forced to admit wrongdoing. Pleading the fifth is not refusing to testify it is refusing to incriminate oneself. 

4. This part means that we (the police, city, state, etc) cannot seize property without just cause. No one can just take the property one owns for use of the state. You must be compensated fairly. 

Think about how you use these phrases. 

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